Coming to UCL for your year abroad?: a student perspective

Gibran UCL photo

Gibran Ahmad, from the University of Toronto, tells us all about his year abroad at UCL History 2016-17.

What made you choose to study history at UCL?

I chose to study at University College London as an affiliate history student from the University of Toronto because of the renowned and extensive history program offered by UCL, as well as the opportunity to study in London. What truly compelled me to study for not just one semester but for the whole academic year was the vast selection of modules available, covering over 5000 years of history. I have thoroughly enjoyed my exchange to UCL and would highly recommend it for anyone wishing to study in London.

What have you enjoyed most about studying in UCL History?

What I have enjoyed the most about studying at UCL is how small and engaging the classes are. My professors are the leading scholars in their fields of study and as a result they are not only highly engaged with the material but also disseminate the knowledge passionately. In specific, I have enjoyed my thematic modules ‘War, Rebellion, and Social Discontent in Modern China’ with Dr Lily Chang and ‘India and the Global Economy, 1500 to Present’ with Dr Jagjeet Lally, as they have not only been intellectually stimulating but have changed the way I perceive the East and history itself. The content of these modules is selected to challenge assumptions and as a result I am more sceptical of previous assumptions I’ve made.

Additionally, I have appreciated how at UCL all the professors are more than happy to help you with essay structure and further development of writing skills. With such small class sizes it is easy to seek help and get the attention you need to perform successfully at one of the top universities in the world.

What’s it like studying in London?

There is no other city like London. You will never truly appreciate the nuances this city has to offer by visiting London as a tourist. By living in London I have experienced culture, arts, music, history, and education that is unparalleled to any other city. This cosmopolitan metropolis attracts the most successful, talented, and brightest people, and that is reflected in the community at UCL. Through clubs and events, UCL makes it very easy to meet and mingle with people from the school itself, as well as the larger University of London (of which UCL is part). My smallest class has nine students, and with small class sizes like this, UCL History makes it very easy to engage with bright and like-minded individuals through discussions, group work, and presentations.

What do you consider to have been the most important aspects of your experience?

The most important aspects of my exchange to London have been my education and my peers.

My education at UCL has been both enlightening and beneficial to my future prospects. The amount I have learnt over the past year has benefited me intellectually as it has challenged my assumptions and changed my attitude to scholarship. UCL has given me the tools to write better papers and to argue my points effectively. The university has also improved my prospects in the field of history by helping me to gain experience; I am currently interning at the British Museum in the Department of Greece and Rome and the Department of Asia as an archivist. This role has only been made possible through UCL support, as the careers centre gave me the necessary tools to apply and my history professors supplied the references to get me the position. I am thankful to UCL History for helping me to launch a future career in archiving and apply my degree to a profession.

My peers have been integral to my experience as they are the people I intend to keep in touch with for years to come. UCL, as ‘London’s global university’, has given me friends from all across the world. When I go back to Toronto next year I will have the luxury of having places to stay not only in London but in Luxembourg, Nepal, Singapore, and more.

What top 3 tips or pieces of wisdom would you give to future overseas students thinking of coming to study at UCL History as affiliates?

  1. Make sure you understand the different types of History module available so you don’t overload yourself.
  2. Make sure you travel around the United Kingdom and Europe while you are on exchange. You will benefit greatly from the experience of seeing other countries and with cheap flights it is hard to say no.
  3. UCL is a top-tier institution in a top-tier city. Studying here has been one of the best decisions I have made. You will not regret coming to London and studying history in such a historical city. University College London has a lot to offer and there is no better city to be in than London.

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